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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1 Corinthians 7

Verse 1

1. δέ. This carries on the thought from the last chapter. St Paul has not left the subject of glorifying God with the body. He has only entered upon a fresh branch of it. Having dismissed the question of the unlawful profanation of the body as a thing impossible for Christians, he proceeds to discuss whether they can serve God better in the married or unmarried state.

καλόν. Stronger than our ‘it is good for a man,’ which merely means ‘it is to his advantage.’ St Paul would say that celibacy is an ‘honourable’ estate, and that the reproach cast by Gentiles, and even Jews, on unmarried persons as being bad citizens was unjust. Still (1 Corinthians 7:2), on the ground of Christian prudence, it were best, as a rule, to enter into the married state.

Verses 1-9


The newly-converted Corinthians had evidently found themselves in a difficulty concerning marriage. The Jews in general, whatever ascetics like the Essenes and Therapeutæ among them may have done, set a high value upon it; while the best of the heathen philosophers were inclined to depreciate it, and certain sayings of our Lord (see Matthew 19:5-12) seemed to support their view. The Corinthians had evidently written to consult St Paul on the point. The Apostle’s advice may be thus summarized: that though the unmarried were, from their freedom from all entangling ties, most at liberty to serve God in any way that He might put before them, and though in the present season of temptation and persecution (1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:28) the unmarried would be spared much trial and anguish which would fall heavily upon married persons, yet that it was the duty of those who, in an unmarried state, were in danger of offending against that solemn law of Christian purity which he had just laid down, to ‘marry, and so keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s Body.’ The growth in these luxurious days of habits at variance with the simple and unostentatious life of the true Christian, places great difficulties in the way of those who would follow St Paul’s advice, and is, therefore, the cause of an amount of immorality and misery which it were better to prevent than to be compelled to cure.

Verse 2

2. διὰ δὲ τὰς πορνείας. Literally, on account of the fornications, i.e. the habitual practice of this vice in Corinth. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 6:13. We are not to suppose (see Meyer) that we have the whole of the Apostle’s view of marriage, but simply that which connects itself with the question that has been asked him. To understand the doctrine of marriage, as generally delivered in the Christian Scriptures, we must compare John 2:1-11; Ephesians 5:23-33; 1 Timothy 5:14; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7. ‘These are questions of casuistry, which depend upon the particular case, from which word the term casuistry is derived.’ Robertson.

ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐχέτω. Calvin remarks that we have here a prohibition of polygamy.

Verse 3

3. τὴν ὀφειλήν. What is due, the debt.

Verse 4

4. οὐκ ἐξουσιάζει. A.V. hath not power. Better, hath no right. ἐξουσία sometimes stands for power, as in Revelation 9:3. But the more usual sense of the word is authority.

τοῦ ἰδίου σώματος. Over her own body. Because in everything connected with the duties of married life each should consult the comfort, well-being, and happiness of the other before their own, and should be especially careful that they do not, by any selfishness on the part of either, ‘cause their brother to offend’

Verse 5

5. εἰ μήτι ἄν. Unless perhaps; a permission hesitatingly given. On ἄν without a verb see Dr Moulton’s note on Winer, Gr. Gram. p. 380. In later Greek (see Green, p. 230), ἄν is sometimes combined with καὶ and ὡς so as to produce a strengthened term, without being material to the syntax. Buttmann says that if we supply γένοιτο we depart from St Paul’s usus loquendi, and that we must either supply the indicative or conjunctive. Or, Dr Moulton adds, we may supply ἀποστερῆτε or γένηται. It should be added that B omits ἄν altogether.

ἐκ συμφώνου, by mutual consent.

σχολάσητε. The rec. σχολάζητε would indicate a more habitual practice than the aorist, and may possibly, like the rest of the rec. text here, have had an ascetic origin.

ἦτε is more habitual than the rec. συνέρχησθε. The Apostle’s language has been strengthened throughout in an ascetic direction.

ὁ Σατανᾶς. Cf. 1 Peter 5:8.

διὰ τὴν ἀκρασίαν ὑμῶν. On account of your incontinency, not for, as A.V.

Verse 6

6. κατὰ συνγνώμην. A.V. by permission. Other commentators translate, by way of indulgence. But συνγνώμη properly means pardon, or excuse. So Calvin and Estius here. See Plato Phaed. 88 C νὴ τοὺς θεούς, ὦ Φαίδων, συγγνώμην γε ἔχω ὑμῖν. And Herod. I. 39 συγγνώμη μέν, ὦ πάτερ, τοι. See also Aristotle Eth. Nic. III. 1, IV. 5, 1 Corinthians 7:8. In VI. 11 he defines συγγνώμη as γνώμη κριτικὴ τοῦ ἐπιεικοῦς ὀρθή. Therefore we may paraphrase the passage thus: ‘I say this as a fair and reasonable concession to your circumstances. But it is not to be regarded as a positive command.’

Verse 7

7. θέλω δέ. The rec. text has γάρ, which makes the passage far clearer, and was probably substituted for that reason. We must render ‘but I wish.’

ἕκαστος ἴδιον ἔχει χάρισμα. Cf. Matthew 19:11, and Epictetus, Enchir. c. 33 μὴ μέντοι ἐπαχθὴς γίνου τοῖς χρωμένοις, μηδὲ ἐλεγκτικός, μηδὲ πολλαχοῦ τό, ὅτι αὐτῷ οὐ χρῆ, παράφερε. For χάρισμα see 1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Corinthians 12:4.

Verse 8

8. χήραις. Cf. 1 Timothy 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:14.

Verse 10

10. οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος. The Apostle is quoting our Lord’s words in Mark 10:11-12. No distinction is intended between what he, as a private individual, enjoined, and what God commanded. ‘He never wrote of himself, being a vessel of the Holy Ghost, Who ever spoke by him to the Church.’ Dean Alford.

χωρισθῆναι. Literally, be separated, but not implying that the separation took place without her consent. The Apostle would seem here to be speaking of voluntary separations, not of such violations of the fundamental principle of marriage (see ch. 1 Corinthians 6:15-18) as are glanced at in Matthew 19:9. So Chrysostom on 1 Corinthians 7:12 : ‘Here there is hope that the lost member may be saved through the marriage, but in the other case the marriage is already dissolved.’ Such voluntary separations were contrary to the command of Christ, and could only be allowed (see 1 Corinthians 7:15) under very exceptional circumstances.

Verses 10-16


Verse 11

11. ἐὰν δὲ καί. Nearly equivalent to our ‘but if, after all,’ or ‘but if she be separated’ (with the emphasis on ‘be’).

χωρισθῇ. Literally, be separated, as above. There were great facilities for divorce, both under the law of Greece and that of Rome, in St Paul’s day, but the facilities were greater for the husband than for the wife. At Athens the husband could dismiss his wife at will. At Sparta failure of issue was regarded as a sufficient reason. Thus the Ephors, we are told by Herodotus (1 Corinthians 7:39), sent for Anaxandrides and urged him, lest the race of Eurysthenes should be extinct, to put away his wife. Something similar is related by the same historian (6:61–3) of Ariston. So in Roman law, the husband had originally the full disposal of the wife’s person and liberty, but this harsh regulation was resented by the wives, and in the days of the empire the wife also obtained the power of divorce. Cicero and Caesar both divorced their wives. Juvenal (Sat. VI. 229, 230) speaks of the fatal facility of divorce, possessed by the wives in his day: the then accepted theory being that whatever put an end to conjugal affection was sufficient to dissolve marriage. See Art. Divortium in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities, and Merivale’s History of Rome, Vol. IV. The Jewish law of divorce was also very lax. See Matthew 5:31-32; Deuteronomy 24:1.

μενέτω ἄγαμος. Let her not, that is, contract another marriage, which she was free by the law to do.

ἀφιέναι. The inf. after παραγγέλλω.

Verse 12

12. οὐχ ὁ κύριος. That is, there has been no precept given by Christ Himself in the particular case now referred to, therefore St Paul falls back on the general inspiration given by Christ to His Apostles. Compare 1 Corinthians 7:40 (where see note), and John 16:13. ‘Christ lays down the general rule, the Apostles apply it to particular emergencies.’ Stanley.

ἀφιέτω. Not the technical legal word for divorce (‘put away,’ A.V.). It relates to the effect of divorce, not the legal process. R.V. rightly, leave, as A.V. in 1 Corinthians 7:13.

Verse 13

13. τὸν ἄνδρα. אABCDEFG, Vet. Lat., Vulg., Peshito. Rec. αὐτόν.

Verse 14

14. ἡγίασται. Hath been sanctified, i.e. by the union of the unbeliever with the believer. The sacred character imparted by Christianity has, since it imparts union with Christ the Lord of all, a power to overcome the unregenerate condition of the non-Christian partner in wedlock. Meyer’s note is very striking here. He says that ‘the Christian sanctity affects even the non-believing partner in a marriage and so passes over to him that he does not remain a profane person, but through the intimate union of wedded life becomes partaker (as if by a sacred contagion) of the higher divinely consecrated character of his consort.’ And this is because matrimony is ‘a holy estate instituted of God.’ For the much stricter view under the Law, Dean Stanley refers to Ezra, ch. 9, and Nehemiah 9:2; Nehemiah 13:23-28. But these marriages were contracted in defiance of the prohibition in Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4, a prohibition rendered necessary by the surrounding idolatry and its attendant licentiousness. They stand upon a different footing to marriages contracted before admission into covenant with God. Observe that when in the right path, holiness is a stronger force than evil. But (see 1 Corinthians 6:15) when once we overstep its bounds, evil is more powerful than good.

ἐν τῇ γυναικί. ‘By virtue of his union with the (believing) wife.’ Cf. Soph. Aj. 519 ἐν σοὶ πᾶσ' ἔγωγε σώζομαι i.e. by virtue of my union with thee am I kept altogether free from harm.

ἐπεὶ ἄραἐστιν. Since in the opposite case your children are unclean, the indicative marking more strongly the natural result of a supposition contrary to that of the Apostle than the subjunctive rendering of the A. and R.V.

νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν. This principle applies also to the children of such a marriage. The sanctity, i.e. the consecration, of the parent possessing the life of Christ, and living in holy wedlock with an unbelieving husband or wife, descends to the child, which from its birth may be regarded as ‘holy to the Lord.’ ‘Which we may not so understand as if the children of baptized parents were without sin, or grace from baptized parents derived by propagation, or God by covenant and promise tied to save any in mere regard of their parents’ belief: yet to all professors of the name of Christ this pre-eminence above infidels is freely given, that the fruit of their bodies bringeth into the world with it a present interest and right to those means wherewith the ordinance of Christ is that His Church shall be sanctified.’ Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, Book v. lx. 6. This holds good, however, only of such marriages as were contracted before conversion. Christians were forbidden in 1 Corinthians 7:39 and in 2 Corinthians 6:14, to contract marriages with the heathen.

Verse 15

15. οὐ δεδούλωται. Literally, is not enslaved. The Roman Catholic divines, e.g. à Lapide and Ambrosiaster, as well as the Canon law, held that in the case of the heathen partner divorcing the other when he or she embraced Christianity, the Christian was justified in contracting a fresh marriage. See Wordsworth, in loc. Also Chrysostom cited above, 1 Corinthians 7:10. The law countenanced this view, for after divorce the previous marriage had of course no validity.

ἐν εἰρήνῃ. In peace, as R.V., and A.V. in margin.

Verse 16

16. τί γὰρ οἶδας. Until the 14th century the meaning of this passage was supposed to be that the believing partner was to remain with the unbeliever, in hope of bringing about his conversion. See 1 Peter 3:1. But Lyra then pointed out that the opposite view was more agreeable to the context. The preceding verse recommends departure, and the following verse, beginning with a qualifying particle ‘but’ or more literally except, only, seems to imply that the advice in 1 Corinthians 7:15-16 was to be looked upon as referring to a particular case and was not to be tortured into a general rule. For the insisting on marriage rights when the unbelieving party to the contract was desirous of dissolving it was an attempt at compulsion which was undesirable in itself, and might not, after all, be followed by the salvation of the unbeliever. Dean Stanley remarks on the influence of the earlier interpretation upon history in such marriages as that of Clotilda with Clovis and of Bertha with Ethelbert of Kent.

Verse 17

17. εἰ μή. Only. Not exactly equivalent to ‘but,’ for this (see Bp Lightfoot on Galatians 1:19) is never the case. The meaning is no general rule can be laid down to meet all cases, except this, ‘let every one walk in the course God has marked out to him.’ See next note.

ὡς μεμέρικεν ὁ κύριος. As the Lord hath appointed. The permission to live apart from a heathen husband or wife is given only to meet a special case, that in which the unbelieving partner demands the separation. The general rule is, remain in the condition in which you were called. That was the rule which St Paul was giving to his converts wherever he went. He now proceeds to give two remarkable illustrations of his principle, calculated at once to arrest and fix the attention of the Corinthians. He applies it to the relations of Jew and Gentile; and to those of slave and freeman, and thus shews that Christianity was not intended to introduce a violent revolutionary element into society, but to sanctify existing relations until the time came that they could be amended. ‘Christianity interferes indirectly, not directly, with existing institutions.’ Robertson. Cf. Luke 12:13-15.

διατάσσομαι. This would seem to be the present of habitual action; ‘this is what I am ordering in all the Churches,’ and not merely at Corinth. πάσαις is emphatic.

Verses 17-24


Verse 18

18. περιτετμημένος τις. Many Jews, we are assured, were ashamed of their Judaism, and were desirous to obliterate all the outward signs of it. (1 Maccabees 1:15.) This feeling would receive an additional impulse from conversion to Christianity. But though St Paul evidently considered that Jews, when converted, were at liberty to dispense with the observance of the Jewish law (ch. 1 Corinthians 9:21), he here intimates equally clearly his conviction that they had a perfect right to continue in its observance if they thought fit to do so. τις, according to many editors, does not involve a question: ‘(Suppose) a man is called who has been circumcised.’

ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ. That the Gentiles were free from the obligation of the Jewish law was decided in the conference held at Jerusalem (Acts 15) and after some wavering (Galatians 2:11-21) it was set at rest, principally by the courage and clear-sightedness of the great Apostle of the Gentiles.

κέκληται. It is easy to see how the rec. ἐκλήθη was substituted here. It was not observed that in the former place it was connected with a perf. participle, and so the change of tense seemed a solecism. But it is strictly accurate. ‘A man was called who has been circumcised. Let him not become uncircumcised. Or he has been called when in a state of uncircumcision. Let him not be circumcised.’

Verse 19

19. ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν. It is not circumcision or uncircumcision that are of any value in themselves. No external act has any inherent value. It is simply the keeping of God’s commands which avails with Him. It is obvious that this reasoning is equally true of the two Sacraments of the Christian covenant. It is not the reception of the Sacraments in themselves, as a mere opus operatum, which profits us, but their reception in obedience to a Divine command, and in the spirit, and for the purposes which God designed in their institution. Infant baptism, it is obvious, profits nothing save when the gift bestowed is made use of afterwards.

Verse 20

20. κλήσει. The word (see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:26) does not mean calling in our modern sense of the life to which a man has been called; but refers to God’s act. ‘Let every man abide,’ not in the condition which God placed him by the call, but in the condition in which that call found him. For God’s call is not intended to change our earthly position, but to enable us to serve God in it. The passage cited by so many commentators from Ovid’s Fasti ‘Qua positus fueris, in statione mane’ (or rather manes) relates to an altogether different subject. But Aristophanes (Wasps, 1431) has ἔρδοι τις ἣν ἕκαστος εἰδείη τέχνην. Cp. (Cicero ‘quam quisque novit artem in ea se exerceat.’ And Marcus Aurelius Meditations IV. 31 τὸ τέχνιον ὃ ἔμαθες φίλει, τούτῳ προσαναπαύου.

Verse 21

21. μή σοι μελέτω. Trouble not thyself about it.

μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. This may either be interpreted [1] ‘use freedom,’ or [2] ‘use slavery.’ Dean Stanley remarks of this passage that its interpretation ‘is one of the most evenly balanced questions in the New Testament.’ But the context, the position of the word καὶ in the former part of the sentence (its literal translation would seem to be but even if thou canst be made free), and the fact that the word translated use has often the sense undergo, endure (for examples see Dean Alford’s note), make it probable that the second is the correct interpretation, and that the slave is here instructed as a rule to refuse freedom if offered. ‘If when you were called you were a slave, do not let it trouble you, and even if you have the chance of becoming free, do not jump at it.’ And the strongest objection to this interpretation, namely, that Christianity has always allowed men to occupy a position of more extended usefulness if offered to them, is obviated by the fact that St Paul does not absolutely forbid his converts to accept liberty; he merely instructs them to prefer to remain in the condition in which they were called, unless some very strong indication of God’s will bade them leave it, such as was manifested in the case of Onesimus. See Ep. to Philemon. The doctrine of Christian liberty was intended to make men free in, not from, the responsibilities of their position. But as St Peter reminds us (1 Peter 2:16; 2 Peter 2:19) the doctrine of Christian liberty could be abused. It was abused when it induced among the newly-converted a restlessness and dissatisfaction with their lot, which would have rendered Christianity a source, not of peace, but of confusion (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:15, and ch. 1 Corinthians 14:33). See the whole question discussed in the Introduction to Bishop Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistle to Philemon.

Verse 22

22. ἀπελεύθερος. Not freeman, with most of the English translators, but with Vulg., Calvin, Beza and the R.V. freedman. Cf. Soph. Fragm. 677 εἰ σῶμα δοῦλον, ἀλλ' ὁ νοῦς ἐλεύθερος. It is the glory of the religion of the Cross that it conquers the world by submitting to it. Neander, Church History, Sec. 1, A remarks on the astonishment which must have been felt when the slave, without rebelling against the condition in which he found himself, discharged all its duties with greater fidelity than before, and yet shewed an elevation of soul utterly unusual in men in his position. But the indirect influence of Christianity (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:17) has introduced a tone of feeling which has struck at the root of slavery and, in Christian society at least, put an end to it.

δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. Cf. Ephesians 6:6; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Judges 1:1.

Verse 23

23. τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε. See ch. 1 Corinthians 6:20.

δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. Slaves of men. Let your minds and spirits be free, whatever may be your outward condition, i.e. be indifferent to mere external relations altogether, for though man may enslave the body he cannot enslave the soul. We may profitably compare the tone of this passage with that of Epict. Enchir. 19 σὺ δὲ αὐτὸς οὐ στρατηγός, οὐ πρύτανις ἢ ὕπατος εἶναι θελήσῃς, ἀλλ' ἐλεύθερος· μία δὲ ὁδὸς πρὸς τοῦτο, καταφρόνησις τῶν οὐκ ἐφ' ἡμῶν. καταφρόνησις, save of the αἰσχύνη τοῦ σταυροῦ, is nowhere represented as a Christian virtue. Even ‘contempt of the world’ is an expression which savours more of the heathen philosopher than of Christ.

Verse 24

24. παρὰ θεῷ. Cf. Matthew 19:26; Romans 2:11. ‘With God in union of spirit.’ A repetition of the precept of 1 Corinthians 7:20, under a more solemn sanction. The believer is reminded Who it is that hath ordained his condition, as a sufficient reason that he should be contented with it.

Verse 25

25. παρθένων. Unmarried women. St Paul now returns to the question of marriage. But before he enters upon the question of the marriage of virgins, he treats, according to his usual rule, of the general principle of which theirs is a particular case. The time is short, and he would have all as free from care as possible.

ἐπιταγὴν κυρίου οὐκ ἔχω. See 1 Corinthians 7:10, note.

γνώμην δὲ δίδωμι. But I give my opinion. See 2 Corinthians 8:10. The form of the expression is unusual in classical Greek. In later Greek, however, it occurs not unfrequently, as in Diod. Sic. Biblioth. Hist. XX. 16 τὴν ἐναντίαν δοὺς γνώμην.

πιστός. The word means in the N.T. [1] trustworthy, [2] believing. See ch. 1 Corinthians 4:2 for [1] and for [2] 2 Corinthians 6:15. Here [1] is preferable.

Verses 25-38


Verse 26

26. καλόν. See 1 Corinthians 7:1.

διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην. On account of the immediate necessity, or perhaps distress, ἀνάγκη is translated necessity in 1 Corinthians 7:37, and this is its literal meaning. But it frequently in the New Testament, as in the Septuagint, has the sense of distress, as in Luke 21:23; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:7. Here it means either [1] ‘the great tribulation’ which was to precede our Lord’s coming (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; Revelation 7:14), or [2] the general distress and anxiety which was sure to attend the profession of Christianity in those times, or [3] the necessity of the believers’ present position.

τὸ οὕτως εἶναι, thus to be, as explained in the next verse.

Verse 28

28. θλίψιν δὲ τῇ σαρκί. Tribulation, either as in the case of Monica, when she saw her son Augustine falling into sin and infidelity, or as many other Christian parents whose souls the ‘sword’ of the executioner was destined to ‘pierce through,’ as they beheld the martyrdom of their children.

ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμῶν φείδομαι. The present implies habitual purpose. Either [1] the Apostle from his tenderness towards them spares them the recital of the many sorrows that will befall them, or [2] he is anxious to spare them the sorrows themselves. See note on next verse.

Verse 29

29. τοῦτο δέ φημι. The conclusion of the whole matter. The time is short, the world is passing away. In whatever condition a man is, let him live in a constant state of readiness to abandon it at the bidding of God. Let him keep his soul unfettered by the ties, the enjoyments, and above all, the cares of this life. There are several ways of rendering this passage, but they do not materially affect the meaning.

ὁ καιρός. The present order of things.

συνεσταλμένος. Is drawing to a close. Literally, has been drawn together. St Paul here expresses the idea so common in his day, that the end of the present dispensation was to be expected immediately. See 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, and note on 1 Corinthians 7:31. ‘But in such times as these let those that have wives be as those that have none, as St Paul said when he told his people under the Roman emperor to be above begetting slaves or martyrs. A man of the people should keep himself as free from incumbrance as he can just now. He will find it more easy to dare and suffer for the people when the time comes.’ Kingsley, Alton Locke, c. 10.

τὸ λοιπόν. The punctuation of the different editors varies here a good deal. Some take τὸ λοιπόν with what goes before, in which case we must render the time which remains is shortened (or is shortened from henceforth). So the Peshito. But the Vetus Lat. and Vulg., as well as Tertullian, connect τὸ λοιπόν with what follows. So Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort (text).

ἵνα. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 4:2. It is impossible to suppose that the Apostle meant that the time was shortened in order that the disciples might live the life he proceeds to describe.

Verse 30

30. καὶ οἱ χαίροντες ὡς μὴ χαίροντες. ‘Look round this beautiful world of God’s: ocean dimpled into myriad smiles; the sky a trembling, quivering mass of blue, thrilling hearts with ecstasy; every tint, every form, replete with beauty. God says, “be glad.” Do not force young, happy hearts to an unnatural solemnity, as if to be happy were a crime. Let us hear their loud, merry, ringing laugh, even if sterner hearts can be glad no longer; to see innocent mirth and joy does the heart good. But now observe, everlasting considerations are to come in, not to sadden joy, but to calm it.… We are to be calm, cheerful, self-possessed; to sit loose to all these sources of enjoyment, masters of ourselves.’ Robertson.

κατέχοντες. This word is used in two different senses in the N. T. Here, and in 2 Corinthians 6:10, the intensitive sense of κατά in composition is required (see note on next verse). In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, the sense of holding back must be given. In Romans 1:18, it is doubtful which sense is to be preferred. μή throughout the whole of this passage denotes that the proposition is hypothetical.

Verse 31

31. τὸν κόσμον. See Critical Note. The rec. text is a grammatical correction. The accusative after χρῆσθαι is not found elsewhere in N. T., nor in classical Greek. See Meyer in loc.

καταχρώμενοι. Either, as not using it to excess, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 9:18, or, with A.V. as not abusing it. Cf. the Latin abutor, which has both meanings.

παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. Is passing away, as a scene in a theatre (see Stanley and Alford’s notes). This translation brings out yet more clearly the belief of the early Church in the speedy coming of Christ. Cf. 1 John 2:17. Also 2 Peter 3:10.

Verse 32

32. ἀμερίμνους. Free from anxiety. One great reason why the Apostle recommends celibacy is the freedom that it gives from anxiety about worldly matters, the opportunity it offers of ‘attending upon the Lord without distraction.’ But the Apostle does not desire his advice to be a snare to entangle those who feel that they can serve God with less distraction in the married state. He leaves it to all to decide for themselves according to their sense of what is most desirable and becoming in their own case. The words ἀμερίμνους, μεριμνᾷ, translated ‘without carefulness,’ ‘careth,’ in A.V., were intended, as in Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:27-28; Matthew 6:31; Matthew 6:34 (where our translation has ‘take thought’), to express the idea of trouble, anxiety. See R.V. Anxiety, anxious, however, convey a clearer idea to readers in the present day.

Verse 34

34. καὶ μεμέρισται. See Critical Note. The Vulgate, Calvin, Lachmann, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort and others place a period after μεμέρισται. Tischendorf decidedly rejects this (‘nihil nobis placet’), and Jerome himself (the translator of the Vulgate) admits that it is not the translation he has found in his Latin copies. But that translation he rejects as incompatible with ‘Apostolic truth.’ The objection to placing a period after μεμέρισται is twofold. [1] γυνή is used throughout this chapter in the sense of wife, as distinct from virgin. [2] μερίζω is not used in N.T. and seldom, if ever, elsewhere, in the sense of distract, which is (in N.T.) expressed by μεριμνάω or περισπάω (see below). On these grounds Tischendorf’s punctuation seems preferable. The literal rendering then is And both the wife and the virgin have been divided off from each other, and the sense is that a distinct path in life has been marked out for the wife and the virgin, or as Bp Wordsworth translates ‘the wife and the virgin, each has her appointed lot.’ So Chrysostom. For μερίζω see 1 Corinthians 7:17. Also 1 Corinthians 1:31 (where we could hardly translate ‘Is Christ distracted?’); Mark 3:26; Mark 6:41; Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 10:13. We may also compare the use of μεμερισμένον in Lucian, Deorum Dial. XXIV. 1 ἀλλ' ἔτι καὶ νεκρικὰ συνδιαπράττειν μεμερισμένον.

Verse 35

35. βρόχον. ‘Snare,’ A.V. Better noose.

εὐπάρεδρον. Literally, sitting conveniently before (or beside). Dean Stanley refers to Martha and Mary in Luke 10:39-41, as an exact illustration of this expression. Martha is ‘cumbered with much serving,’ Mary sits at Jesus’ feet.

ἀπερισπάστως. The word περισπάω is a very expressive one and is precisely equivalent in Luke 10:40 to our distracted. Here the meaning is, not drawn in different directions by various considerations.

Verse 36

36. δέ. On the other hand.

ἀσχημονεῖν. See Lucian, De Sacrif. c. 7 ἡ Ῥέα δὲ πῶς οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ; Our modern colloquial English has imitated this expression. It is ‘bad form’ to do this or that. See ch. 1 Corinthians 12:23, 1 Corinthians 13:5, and Romans 1:27; Revelation 16:15. See also εὔσχημον, 1 Corinthians 7:35 and ch. 1 Corinthians 12:23-24, 1 Corinthians 14:40.

τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ. I.e. his daughter. The advice here given is to parents. In St Paul’s time, and in most continental countries now, it is the parents who decide on the marriage of their children. In France, and in some other foreign countries, the young people very often do not even see one another before they are contracted. But St Paul thinks it might in some cases be ‘unseemly’ conduct on the part of a parent to refuse a proposal of marriage for a daughter who desired to serve God in the married state. ‘That the maiden’s will should be left entirely out of account by Paul can surprise no one who is aware of the power given to fathers among the Jews (comp. Ewald. Alterth. p. 287) and Greeks (Herm. PrivAlterth. § 30 ff.).’ Meyer.

ἐὰν ᾖ ὑπέρακμος. Either [1] as A. and R.V., if she be past the flower of her age, or more probably [2] if she have reached the age of maturity, implying her having past the period at which she attained it. The word is not found in classical Greek. In Eustathius, the well-known commentator on Homer, the word is used in sense [1]. Here the context seems to require [2]. The classical equivalent for [1] is παρακμάζω. Aesch. Epist. 10 uses ὑπέρωρον in sense [2].

καὶ οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι. Literally, and so it ought to be; that is, if it be fair and reasonable that the wish of either or both parties should be carried out, and it would be harsh to act otherwise. Some think that the reference is to the disgrace incurred by a maiden, especially a Jewish maiden, who had passed the age of maturity and was still unmarried—a disgrace which also attached to a Jewish father who had not provided a suitable marriage for her. Cf. Sirach 7:25, ‘Marry thy daughter, and thou hast performed a weighty matter.’ The Rabbis advised rather that a slave should be released as a husband for the daughter, than that she should remain unmarried. Others, again, think that the danger of sin (1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Corinthians 10:9) is here referred to. See Sirach 42:9.

γαμείτωσαν. I.e. the daughter and her suitor.

Verse 37

37. μὴ ἔχων ἀνάγκην. This might be the case either [1] if the maiden be not specially desirous for the married life, or [2] if her hand be not sought in marriage, or [3] if, when sought, she be unwilling to accept the proposal. The language of the Apostle embraces all three suppositions.

ἐξουσίαν δὲ ἔχει. The legitimate authority of the parent is great, but he has no right to treat his children as mere chattels. He can only be said to have ‘power over his own will’ when he can act without selfishly thwarting the reasonable wishes of those whom God has committed to his care.

καὶ τοῦτο κέκρικεν. ‘If in other lighter actions nothing is permitted to children without the authority of their parents, much less is it desirable that freedom should be given them in contracting matrimony.’ Calvin.

τηρεῖν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον. To keep his own daughter at home unmarried.

Verse 38

38. καὶ ὁ γαμίζων. The idea in the Apostle’s mind is that both do well. But whether we read καί or δέ in the apodosis, the sentence involves an anacolouthon. The difference between the rec. ἐκγαμίζων and the text is that the former emphasizes the parting with the daughter, ‘marrying her off,’ as we say, while the latter signifies the simple giving in marriage. The reading ποιήσει implies that the practice the Apostle is recommending is not a common one at present but that he hopes it will become so. It was the failure to discern this which led to the correction into the more obvious ποιεῖ.

Verse 39

39. γυνὴ δέδεται. The perfect marks the permanent nature of the marriage contract. See Romans 7:2.

ἐὰν δὲ κοιμηθῇ ὁ ἀνήρ. Literally, if her husband sleep, or rather, perhaps, be laid to sleep, the word generally used of the death of Christians, of the saints of the old covenant and even of the heathen. The phrase is as old as Homer. See Il. XI. 241, and Soph. Electr. 509 ὁ ποντισθεὶς ΄υρτίλος ἐκοιμάθη. Cf. Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; Acts 13:36. St Paul uses it in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:30 and ch. 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:51, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15. The writers of the Old Testament also described death thus, as, for instance, in Deuteronomy 31:16; 1 Kings 2:10; Daniel 12:2. Thus death is robbed of half its terrors. It is a condition of partially, not wholly, suspended consciousness; a waiting of the soul, in union with its Lord until the great awakening. Calvin remarks that to infer from this passage that the soul, separated from the body, was without sense or intelligence, would be to say that it was without life. See 2 Corinthians 12:2. The aorist here, as in ἀπέθανον, refers not only to the past act, but to the present condition.

μόνον ἐν κυρίῳ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14. The marriage of widows was discountenanced, but not forbidden. Under certain circumstances it was even enjoined. See 1 Timothy 5:9; 1 Timothy 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:14. But under all circumstances mixed marriages were to be avoided.

Verses 39-40


Verse 40

40. δοκῶ δέ. Not that there was any doubt in the Apostle’s mind on this point. The word used implies full persuasion that in the advice he had given he was speaking under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

κἀγώ. Not, as A.V. ‘I think also,’ but ‘I think that I, too,’ as well as others.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.